Transcript – Sky News

Topics: High Court decision on parliamentarians’ eligibility

 

E&OE…

 

DAVID SPEERS:

I want to go to a couple of things, but firstly Barnaby Joyce’s remarks this afternoon that his gut feeling all along was that the High Court would rule him ineligible. How does that make you feel? I mean he stayed in Cabinet when he didn’t think he was eligible to be there.

 

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:

Well it is entirely appropriate, David. These questions have come up over decades and on every occasion where someone’s eligibility has been questioned, the principle is they remain in Parliament until the court determines otherwise. In this case …

 

SPEERS:

What if you think if you’re not eligible though?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

What he said is that, the words he used were ‘in his gut he thought this might happen’. But I think the point here is these circumstances hadn’t been tested by the court before. Effectively an unknowing citizenship. Previous cases had dealt with people who knew they had foreign citizenship and it’s always important that we actually defer to the people, and having dealt with some of these matters in previous instances in this Parliament. The fact is, you remain a Member of Parliament …

 

SPEERS:

Yeah, but you’d think that if you think in your gut the court’s going to find you ineligible, why are you staying in the Cabinet? I appreciate it’s for the High Court to decide, but surely if there is any doubt you stand aside, as Matt Canavan did. If you actually feel you are actually going to be found ineligible, you definitely should go.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I didn’t see all of Barnaby’s press conference, but what I will say is that I think it is an important principle that we let the court make a determination. If someone wants to make another decision themselves, as some have, then so be it. But I think with respect to Barnaby, his electorate sent him here, he was deputy prime minister, his comments today after what will be a disappointing day, I think, he has made it clear he is going to put his name forward again to be sent back by the people of New England. I think his behaviour and that of Fiona Nash and Matt Canavan and the others has been exemplary.

 

SPEERS:

No doubt this has been a difficult thing for him, no question there.

Now in the interim, we’ve got a by-election underway and the Prime Minister we’ve already seen sworn in and Matt Canavan is back in the ministry, Malcolm Turnbull is picking up a few extra portfolios, so are a few others. What’s going to happen, do you think, with Fiona Nash? She wants to return to the Parliament but that would require a Liberal Hollie Hughes to make way for her.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well look, next week – I assume it will be next week – a judge of the High Court will issue orders for the Electoral Commission to conduct special counts of the Senate ballot in the three states affected. And I think we will wait to see what happens. While it is likely that that will happen, I think it is important to let the Electoral Commission conduct its process. I’ve come from speaking to Fiona and her staff today. It’s a very difficult day for Fiona. She has been ruled ineligible on the basis of a citizenship she really didn’t know she had and she referred herself to the High Court. So I’m not going to get ahead of myself, I had a number of conversations with her today …

 

SPEERS:

She wants to come back though, doesn’t she?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

We actually didn’t get to that. I was talking to Fiona about making sure that her staff and the arrangements for someone who has been ruled ineligible are applied so that she can …

 

SPEERS:

What does happen to the staff?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

So the staff will effectively go to the new Minister. So in Fiona’s case, Darren Chester will be acting in the capacity of local government and regional development, so those staff will be working for Darren Chester, and Barnaby Joyce’s staff, as Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, will work for the Prime Minister as he is holding that portfolio.

 

SPEERS:

Would you like to see Fiona Nash back?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

If Fiona actually would like to come back to Parliament, I’ve known Fiona for more than the time I’ve been in Parliament. I consider her a friend. I don’t want to put the onus on her to put her hand up today to come back. I’m sure we will all miss her and if she wanted to run for public office again then we would all be very, very supportive.

 

SAMANTHA MAIDEN:

Scott Ryan, can I just ask you, you’re not only the Special Minister of State, you’re the debt collector of sorts. You decide when people are ruled ineligible, if they have to pay back all the money they were given. It would be quite the tally for Barnaby Joyce, who has been in Parliament for 12 years, and Fiona Nash as well. Are you planning to pursue them to get the money back?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’m actually not the debt collector. The determination whether to assign a debt is actually done by officials in the Department of the Senate and House of Representatives and the Department of Finance. It is not a ministerial decision. In the past, when I have had an application to waive those debts that were issued to former senator Bob Day, I did waive those debts. But it’s also important to note that as far as I am aware, there has been no pursuit of staff for debts. So none of the staff or their families involved should be concerned about that.

 

SPEERS:

Scott Ryan, if and when the Prime Minister goes to Israel as he is due to, who is going to be acting Prime Minister?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Look David, I actually haven’t asked that question myself. I’ve been dealing mainly with administrative arrangements today.

 

SPEERS:

What would be your assumption?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

With the swearing in that has happened, the standing order of precedence – if my memory serves me correctly – it may well fall to Julie Bishop. But I’m not on top of the order of precedence at the moment.

 

SPEERS:

Is this an embarrassing day for the Government?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

No, what we had here was a situation that had never been tested before in the courts. The previous decisions, to use laymen’s speak, on these matters had been about people who had dual citizenship and there was a knowing element to it. In these cases, we were dealing with people who did not know they had dual citizenship, or they had foreign citizenship. And the court has applied, as Ann Twomey said earlier, its reading of the Constitution. We are living with that, we’re getting on with governing. Barnaby Joyce is running for re-election, the writs for the by-election have been issued on December 2, the business of government goes on.

 

SPEERS:

Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State, I appreciate you joining us this afternoon.

 

[ENDS]

Author: senatorryan

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